Category : Business Strategy

Blogging Business Strategy Content Marketing

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy to Attract Leads and Boost Sales

Having a content marketing strategy is the most important part of doing marketing on the web. This is especially true in the B2B world where the sales cycle is long or if you’re selling services or high ticket items.

Having interesting content is what helps you start that initial relationship with your prospects and keeps them engaged. In most cases, prospects are not ready to do business with you upon their first visit to your site.

But if you have relevant and compelling content that teaches them something new, show them how to solve their pains or problems,  entertains them, intrigues them, or provokes them, then they would be more likely to consider you when they are ready to make their buying decisions.

So, to attract web visitors, create engagement and establish your authority, you must offer content that is educational, useful, relevant, and original. In other words, your content must be remarkable!

Examples of organizations that have done a great job of content marketing are Hubspot, Marketo, and Breakpoint Systems. Just visit the websites and blogs of these companies and pay attention to how they write their blog articles as well as how they create and give away useful and educational E-books. Every content they produce are packed with useful information!

The benefits of Creating Awesome Content

Creating awesome content benefits your business in so many ways. Here are a few:

  • Awesome content helps to establish yourself as the expert and authority in your field.
  • Awesome content is more likely to attract links and mentions from external websites and blogs. Why are links important? In SEO, links are significant ranking variable.
  • Awesome content gets shared in the social media universe, generating publicity and traffic for your site.
  • Awesome content engages your audience and builds trust, driving your visitors and prospects further down the conversion funnel.

Creating Awesome Content Requires a Great Deal of Efforts!

I’ve preached the merits of content marketing with every organizations that I have worked with and I’ve always run into a wall each time. Indeed, creating high quality and interesting content requires a great deal of time and efforts. Most organizations struggle with creating content because they just don’t put enough resources into this very important marketing initative!

In addition, the people who have the knowledge and the insights already have full time jobs to deal with. Furthermore, most of them are not good writers and trying to get them to write is like pulling teeth.

So with all of these challenges, how do you proceed? Read on to find out…

The Content Creation Process

So how do you go about coming up with content ideas and creating the content? Below, I outline the steps that you should follow to create awesome content.

1) Know Everything about your Target Audience

The first step you should take is to truly understand your target audience. Asides from gathering basic demographic information, you should also find out what keep them up at night, what are their pain points, what problems are they trying to solve, what are their aspirations, what do they want to learn, etc.

In addition, you should find out about their online behaviors. What keywords do they search on? Which blogs do they frequently visit? Which social networking sites (linkedin, facebook, twitter, Pinterest, etc) and forums are they most active on? Do they prefer video content or blog articles?

Keep in mind that in the B2B world, you should have different types of content for different people that are involved in the decision process (i.e an engineer cares more about unique features and tips, a purchasing manager cares more about cost and supply chain, and C-level exectives would care more about your company’s history, reputation, track record, etc).

The best ways to gain insights into your prospects and customers are to survey them, talk to folks in sales and customer service, and review your Google analytic data. In fact, by reviewing your Google analytic data, you could mine valuable data such as which keywords are bringing in the traffic, which pages have the most views, and what are they keywords people search for when they are on your site.

The above exercise is very important so you should spend the right amount of time to research your target audience and truly understands their needs, desires, problems, pains. Armed with these information and insights, you will be able to create content that really resonates with them.

2) Understand the Content Need for Each Stage of the Buying Cycle

How fast a prospect becomes a customers depends on the length of the buying cycle and how fast you can accelerate a prospect through the buying cycle. Having relevant content at each stage of the buying cycle would certainly help propel the prospects through the buying cycle.

A prospect that is still at the early stage of researching for a solution would need different information than a prospect that already has a short list of potential vendors and is evaluating the qualifications of each vendor.

At the early stages, prospects are more interested in educational and insightful information about industry trends, new developments, new approaches to solving the same problem, etc. Blog articles, videos, infographics are the best types of medium to deliver these types of content.

At the later stages, prospects want to compare features, benefits, lead time, pricing, quality, reliability, delivery, etc. At the later stages, content in the forms of case studies, comparison reports, webinars, and product demos help build your case  and move the prospects closer to doing business with you.

3) Perform keyword research

Perform keyword research using the free Google keyword tool or other tools (wordtracker, keyword discovery) to identify the topics and issues that are popular with your target audience. The keyword tools can give you valuable data such as the popularity of the topics (based on monthly number of searches). You should target the long tail keyword phrases (keywords with more than 3 words) since they are more targeted and have less competition.

4) Monitor social media, forum, and blog conversations

Forums and social networking sites such as linkedin, yahoo answers, quora, twitter, facebook, etc are places where people go to to ask questions and share thoughts and ideas. By monitoring these conversations, you can gain lots of insights into the topics or issues that your target audience cares about. You can also use social media monitoring tools like Social Mention, Technorati, TweetBeep, Topsy, Google Alerts, Twilert,  Trackur (paid), Radian6 (paid), Hootsuite, Argyle, Alterian, etc to track and monitor conversations around certain keywords that you want to monitor.

If your competitors already have active blogs and forums, you should go there and check them out to find out what types of topics are  currently hot.

In addition, you should subscribe to related blogs and industry news sites. By keeping up with the hot topics and trends related to your industry, you can find inspiration to write your own articles.

5) Create a Content Creation Plan & Calendar

Once you have completed steps 1-4, it’s now time to put together a content creation plan. Your plan should includes the topics for your content, who should be the writer and editor, the types of content (blog articles, solution guides, videos, webinars, etc) and when to publish the content (content calendar). Ideally, you should be cranking out content on a weekly basis.

For technical oriented types of content, you definitely want to enlist the help of subject matter experts. Subject matter experts possess specific knowledge and insights that are valuable to share with your target audience. Since most technical people are not really good writer themselves nor do they have the time to write, it’s best for you to interview them to get the information and then get a technical writer to compose a coherent and compelling article.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessary have to produce all the content in-house. You could always outsource some aspects of your content. For more general and industry trends types of content, you might want to outsource to free lance journalists (Check out contently.com and brafton.com!)

To help keep your content plan organized, you can use Google Calendar or an Excel spreadsheet.

What are the different Types of Content

Your content could be in many forms. Here are a few common forms of content on the web and their uses:

  • blog articles – blog articles are great for establishing thought leadership. Blog is usually used for sharing industry trends, announcing new product releases, discussing current issues in your industry and business, and discussing about issues that are relevant to your target audience’s concerns. Blog articles are ideal for generating awareness among prospects that are at the early stage of the buying cycle. Blog articles also help drive traffic to your site and help your overall SEO efforts.
  • White papers (PDF) – White papers are ideal for talking about a complicated idea and sharing tips. When a topic is too long to be a blog article, it’s best to create a white paper for it. White papers are great offers to give away to prospects in exchange for their contact information.
  • E-books – An E-book is a comprehensive write up on a particular topic. E-books are perhaps the best offer you can give to your prospects to entice them to give up their contact information.
  • Videos – Videos have the power to engage and captivate people’s attention. Your videos don’t need to be professional and expensive to produce either. The important thing is that the audio is good and that you have good content to share.
  • Infographics – Infographics are graphic representation of a topic. Recently, infographics are becoming very popular on the web as they are nice to look at and they do a better job of conveying an idea in a graphical format.
  • Podcasts – A podcast is a series of audio files that can be subscribed to and downloaded. You could host your podcast files on Apple’s Itune store for people to download.
  • Webinars – A webinar is basically an online seminar. It’s a very cost effective and interactive way of hosting an online event on a particular topic and allowing your audience to engage with you through online Q&A. Popular online webinar services include gotomeeting.com, webex.com, anymeeting.com.
  • Case Studies – Case Studies are a great way to establish social proof and to educate prospects how you help clients from different industry solve a particular problem or improve business efficiency using your products, services, or solutions.
  • Interviews – Interviewing experts and other authority figures in your industry is a great way to associate yourself with prominent figures which adds to your credibility.

Note that you could also take an existing piece of content and repurpose it. For example, a PDF white paper could be repurposed into multiple blog articles and a video could be converted into a podcast file. Repurposing makes a lot of sense!

6) Follow Good Copywriting, Design, & SEO Practices

Good copywriting and story telling and great designs are important to keep your audience engaged. Your content must not only be remarkable, but they must be easy to consume, interesting to follow, and beautifully presented also.

In addition, be sure to follow SEO best practices by doing keyword research and doing proper on-page optimization.  Do not try to stuff keywords at the expense of content quality. It’s important to keep SEO in mind, but your writing should also flow naturally.

7) Promote Your Content

Now that you have invested the time and efforts to create those awesome pieces of content, it’s time to let your target audience knows about it. Leverage your relationships with bloggers, media outlets, and key industry influencers to promote your content. You can also use social book marking (digg, stumbleupon, reddit, etc) and social media channels (twitter, facebook, google +, & linkedin) to share and promote your content.

Great content + SEO + social media promotions will bring massive web visits and boost your sales. If you continue to do these things well, you will see your sales shoot through the roof!

8) Monitor, Measure & Analyze

In order gauge the effectiveness of your content marketing and social media efforts, you need to monitor, measure, and analyze your results and performance.

Start with identifying your goals and metrics. What do you want to achieve? More traffic to your site? Get more links to your site? More engagement with your target audience? More leads/sales/revenue?

For measurement and analysis, analyze the data from your Analytics program (Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Omniture, etc) and find out:

  • Which articles drive the most traffic
  • Which keywords are effective
  • Which social media channels drive the most engagement
  • Which topics resonate the most with your target audience

Just Do It!

As I stated above, embarking on a content marketing journey requires a strategy and commitment from almost everyone in the entire organization. Organizations must realize the importance of having a sound content marketing strategy and must invest in the necessary resources to create relevant and interesting content. The pay-offs will be huge if done well. But if your organization is slow to implement an effective content marketing strategy, then pretty soon your business might become irrelevant!

Read More
Business Strategy

Implement these 5 Marketing Intiatives to Jumpstart Your Business in 2012

jumpstart your marketing2012 should be an exciting year for small businesses. With so many low cost and high impact online marketing methods available, you can dramatically boost your business performances if you apply the best practices of these modern marketing methods and strategies.

Just implement the following marketing initiatives and watch your business explode with profits!

(1) Give your website a needed refresh

I still see lots of small business websites with that ugly 90’s design, look and feel. It’s time for a refresh! Seriously! With so much competition, your site needs to look sexy, professional, and attractive to stand out from the crowd. Look, you only have a few seconds to make a strong impression and captivate your visitor’s attention. So make sure you hire a professional designer to design you a professional and attractive looking site. Also, you might want to hire a copy writer too to help you craft stronger marketing messages and more compelling value propositions.

Things you absolutely need on your website:

  • Make sure that you clearly convey exactly what your business do, who your target customers are, and your business’s value proposition on the top of the home page. Your ability to craft a compelling value proposition will be key to being able to persuade your visitors to stick around to learn more about your business.
  • Have 1 primary “Call to Action” and 1 or 2 secondary “Call to Actions.” You need to have “Call to Actions” to lead the visitors to the next steps. After they land on your site, what exactly do you want them to do? Do you want them to take a tour? Sign up for free trial? Make sure your primary “Call to Action” is prominently shown in a strategic location (somewhere on top of the fold). Use a bright colored  button (test orange, red, and green colors) for your primary CTA.

Things to avoid on your website:

  • Please refrain from using fancy flash or slideshow.  I see so many sites that feature a rotating slideshow with all these images that don’t provide any value or clarity on the value proposition. Instead, they’re just slowing down your site’s loading time and annoying your visitors.
  • Refrain from making outlandish claims that are not substantiated. Don’t say you have the best products or the fastest delivery. Use specific numbers and data to substantiate your claim.

Check out my post on “how to create a sticky website” to learn more…

(2) Share Your Knowledge and Expertise with your Audience by Creating Awesome Content

Having awesome content on your site benefits your business in so many ways. For one, great content attracts free targeted traffic to your site. Secondly, it helps you build trust and authority. Having great content also keeps your audience more engaged.

The material in your content should not be full of fluffs or promotional messages though. It should contain material that is well thought out, well researched, and has the power to educate, inspire, or provoke your audience.

Think about the questions, pain points, problems, and desires that your target audience has and then create the necessary content to address each of these points. Be sure to use a keyword research tool and optimize your content accordingly for your keyword phrase.

The content could be in the following formats: blog posts, videos, articles, slides, infographics, white papers, and e-books.

(3) Use Social Media to Build Your Connections and Expand Your Networks

Social media is not just a fad. It is a powerful tool you can use to build your networks and generate massive number of leads for your business. Although the web is populated with gazillions of social networking sites, you should focus your time and energy on these 3:

  • Facebook – Facebook is ideal for B2C, although I do see a few B2B success stories. Start by creating a fan page for your business. The key to being successful with facebook is to engage your fans by regularly sharing content, asking them questions, and running contests and promotions.
  • Twitter – Twitter can help you generate lots of targeted leads. The key is to follow people that fits your ideal customer profile . You should also follow influential people within your industry. You can use wefollow.com and twellow.com to find relevant people to follow. Once you find these people, you should start engaging with them and be able to drive them back to your website so they can learn more about your business. I recommend that you send them to a resource page where your visitors could sign up to download a free E-book or free report.
  • Linkedin – Linkedin is a great lead generation tool for B2B. Start by writing a complete profile. Make sure you include as much keywords that are related to your business as possible. Next, find relevant groups to join, especially groups that your target audience are most likely to spend time in. You can then answer questions posted by other members. You can also post questions or share your content. The idea is to engage with other members and be able to lead them back to your website where they can check out one of your blog posts or videos to learn more about your expertise. Again, don’t try to promote your products or services right away. Instead, promote your expertise and authority by sending them to a resource page or article.

(4) Automate Your Email and Marketing

You can dramatically increase your productivity and serve the customers better by automating your email and marketing. By using an autoresponder or a marketing automation solution, you could do things like automatically send follow-up messages to your prospects and automatically send an email blast to all your customers and more.

(5) Spend more time with your Customers!

Spending time with your customers and listening to your customers could help you uncover valuable business intelligence. First, you should ask for your customers’ feedback. Find out what they like about you, what they don’t like, how you can improve, etc. Pay attention to the exact words and phrases that they use.

Additionally, you should ask them where they spend their time and which websites/blogs they visit the most to get news and information on your industry.

After analyzing the data and information collected, you should be able to craft better copies for your ads and launch more profitable marketing campaigns.

Knowledge is Useless without Actions!

I’ve given you some high impact marketing nuggets that could provide your business with a big boost in 2012. But you need to take actions. Who knows, this might just be your year!

ips For Managing Negative Keywords In PPC Campaigns

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2012 is to do a better job of documenting our mature PPC campaigns, so that any new manager coming in can take advantage of everything we’ve already tested and learned from over the years, rather than repeating the same tests and/or mistakes we’ve already lived through.

The AdWords and AdCenter change history reports provide a great documentation trail, but they don’t tell the whole story. While they do summarize what’s been changed and when, they do not provide insight, or explain why any particular change was made. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muttered “Why the heck did they do that?” or more often, “What in the world was I thinking when I made that change?”

Whenever I am asked to audit or manage an existing PPC account, one of the areas I often find lacking in sufficient context is the inventory of negative keywords and in this column, we’ll take a look at how negative keywords can grow out of control and a simple documentation framework for managing them more effectively.

Are Your Negative Keywords Out Of Control?

I am guessing that just about every PPC campaign manager is well aware of the importance of negative keywords and how they reduce unproductive ad impressions, clicks and cost. The topic is written about so frequently in the trade press, that finding and adding negative keywords seems to be everybody’s favorite ‘quick and dirty’ PPC optimization tactic.

Because it is so easy to find and add negative keywords, negative keyword lists tend to get bigger and bigger over time. On top of that, PPC managers often copy and paste negative keyword lists from one ad group or campaign to another and from one network to another, without much forethought, which increases the number of these large, bulky keyword lists you need to manage.

In audits I’ve conducted, I often see substantial numbers of negatives keywords in these lists that have nothing to do with the ad groups/ campaigns they are applied to!

One problem with this sort of sloppy management is that one misapplied negative keyword can instantly kill legitimate impression and click volume. But you are actually lucky if you have that problem because it is easy to detect and fix. A more insidious problem of poorly-managed negative keyword lists is a slow, death-by-degrees decline in performance that is much harder to spot.

The Challenge of Managing Large Inventories of Negative Keywords

One of the challenges with managing negative keywords is a negative keyword may apply solely to a single keyword in your account, it may apply to a group of keywords, or it may apply to all of your keywords. This means you need to deal with each potential negative keyword individually and make a decision which keyword or keywords it applies to and how to apply it inside to your account.

Options include:

  • applies exclusively to a single keyword
  • applies to a group of keywords
  • applies to all of your keywords

You not only have to make this decision for every negative keyword you want to add, but you have to keep track of your decision, so that you don’t find yourself re-examining your decision every time you add a new set of positive keywords.

As you can see, the more negative keyword you, add the more management overhead you have to deal with them.

A Framework For Documenting Negatives

One of the problems with managing negative keywords is that as soon as you add them to your account, you lose track of their association with the positive keywords or search queries they pertained to in the first place. Your positive keywords and your negative keyword lists live in different areas within your campaign structure and can’t be viewed at the same time.

To illustrate, lets take a look at how you find and select your negative keywords. The first step in that process is usually to run a search query and/or analytics report to identify the non-productive queries that you want to prevent, as shown below in an excel spreadsheet:

AdWords Search Query Data 

Finding New Negative Keywords

The purpose of this campaign is to attract people who need help with addiction and are looking for drug rehab facilities in Texas. The primary keyword in this ad group is broad-matched, rehab facility, and so you decide you want to prevent clicks when for some of these search terms (marked in red):

Selecting Negative Keywords from AdWords Report 

Selecting Negative Keywords from AdWords Report

Selecting out just the negative keywords, in this hypothetical case, you now some words that are completely unrelated to what you do, (nursing homes, full time work and hillsburg ave) which may be campaign level negatives and universally used to block and search queries that contain those words. The other queries that are not directly related to your offerings for this ad group, but they may be applicable for other ad groups.

The next step is to expand your list of possible negatives using synonyms and stemmed versions of your proposed negatives. Including the plural and singular versions is important, especially with AdWords, since negative broad match doesn’t expand its matching to stemmed versions.

This is your potential list of negative keywords to add into your account for this ad group:

Negative Keyword List Expanded 

Negative Keywords Lists Expanded with Synonyms and Stems

 

Now that we have a list of negatives  and a list of reasons we are interested in these keywords, we are ready to add them into the account.

Negative Keywords Final Selections 

Negative Keywords Final Selections

As shown below in the AdWords Editor interface, all you can see that once you load your negative keywords into your campaign, is your list of negative keywords. The context of why you selected them is lost unless you document it yourself either in a spreadsheet or using comments within AdWords Editor.

Negative Keyword List from AdWords Editor 

Negative Keywords Listed in AdWords Editor

So the next step in this process is to finish up the documentation of your in Excel or even within AdWords Editor. Using Excel is simple and you can additional columns and headers as you see fit.

Documenting your Negative Keywords 

Documenting your Negative Keywords

 

In this Excel worksheet version of this documentation, the primary goal is to create a simple context for the selection of the negative that maintains the association with the original type of query that let to the negative keyword.  We could also add match-type and other data as the need arises.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Read More
Business Strategy Lead Generation

Apply these B2B Lead Nurturing Tactics to Convert Skeptical Prospects into Convinced Customers

lead nurturing best practicesThe buying cycle in the B2B space can be complex and long. Depending on the industry and business, the buying cycle could be a few months to a year or more. Furthermore, there could be multiple parties involved in the buying decision.

As such, don’t expect visitors arriving on your website to be in the “buy ready” mode right away.

The importance of doing Lead Nurturing

Since you already know that B2B buyers’ buying cycles could be long and complex, it’s critical for you to design and implement a lead nurturing program. By having a well thought out and well executed lead nurturing program, you will have a much higher success of converting skeptical prospects into marketing qualified leads.

Once the leads have been qualified by you, you could pass them to your sales team to close the deal. It is a lot easier for Sales to close the deal after the prospects have been qualified through a lead nurturing program.

Understand the different stages of the buying cycle

A typical B2B buying cycle has the following stages:

  1. Prospects become aware of the current problems or pain points as they occur in the day to day operations.
  2. Prospects begin researching for possible solutions. They could begin their research process by using search engines such as Google or by visiting vertical directories or websites/blogs/social media sites dedicated to their industries. This process could take a long time as the prospects want to gather as much information as possible. During this time, they will also discuss internally among the different decision makers and influencers.
  3. Prospects gather a list of possible vendors to talk to.
  4. Prospects request for quotes and proposals.
  5. Negotiate
  6. Choose a vendor
  7. Implementation

Before putting your prospect through a lead nurturing campaign, it is important for you to find out at which stage in the buying cycle each of your prospect falls in.

If you can gather enough intelligence information to know which stage of the buying cycle each of your prospect is in, you can send them through an appropriate lead nurturing campaign.

It is essential that you take into consideration the marketing channel you use to establish that initial contact. Did you meet them at a tradeshow? Did they come to your website from the search engine, or banner ad, or from a social media networking site? Or did someone refer them to you? Which keywords did they use to find your website?

By doing a thorough analysis, you can have a better understanding of the intent, motivation, and purchasing timeline of each of your prospect.

Capturing Visitors’ Contact Information

The lead nurturing process can only begin once the visitors indicate some level of interest to engage with you and have given you their contact information. By giving you their contact info, they have given you permission to engage with them.

But in order for the visitors to give up their contact info, you must provide them with a compelling reason to do so. There must be an exchange of value. A great way to do this is to offer the visitors that come to your website a free report, free E-book, or free white paper.

Your free offers must provide high value content that is designed to educate and provide insights that help your prospects somehow. Don’t just give something that is full of fluffs. Your reputation and credibility is on the line. If you can impress your prospects by demonstrating your thought leadership and expertise, they will trust you more and will be more willing to engage with you.

Additionally, your content should be relevant to your prospect and should sync with the stage of the buying cycle the prospect is in. A prospect that is very early in the buying cycle definitely has a different content interest than a prospect that is further along in the buying cycle.

I want to reiterate the importance of being able to capture your prospects’ contact information. If you’re going to spend all these money on promotions, tradeshows, and advertising, you don’t want those investments to go to waste. So, make all the efforts necessary to capture their contact info!

Below are a few examples of good landing pages that contain the form to capture the visitors’ contact info.

Infusionsoft landing page

Infusionsoft landing page

Sugar CRM landing page

Sugar CRM landing page

Landing Pages Best Practices

To compel the visitors to fill out the contact form, your landing page should contain the following elements:

  • A clear and compelling headline.
  • Some bullet points that convey the benefits and value propositions.
  • A compelling offer (Free E-Book or Free Trial).
  • A contact form.
  • A prominent Call to Action Button (“Start Free Trial” or “Get Instant Download”).

Additionally, your layout should be clean and professional looking.

How to Nurture Your Prospects

The nurturing process can be short or long. Just keep in mind that different buyers have different requirements, different budget constraints, and different timelines to implement a new solution.

It’s important to respect your prospects timeline. Your job in lead nurturing is to maintain the dialogue and continue to establish your expertise and thought leadership until the prospects are ready to buy. And they will need to replace their existing solution at some point down the road. If you do a good job of engaging them and nurturing them along the way, they will more likely to consider your solution when they’re ready to buy.

Here are the different methods you can use to continue the dialogue and engage with your prospects:

  • Send them any content (blog articles, videos, white papers, reports) that you think could educate them, inform them, and help them become more knowledgeable.
  • Send them case studies that are relevant to their businesses and industries. Case studies help to establish trust and credibility.
  • Invite them to a webinar in which you can do a demo of your product or share best practices. In addition, you can host a Q&A to give them an opportunity to learn more about your products or services without any sales pressures.
  • Give them a call to ask them if they need any additional information to help them make a decision.

The above activities could get quite complicated and tedious if you were to use a manual method. Nowadays, there are lots of powerful marketing automation and CRM solutions available that could automate a lot of the activities mentioned above. Popular marketing automation solutions for small businesses include Pardot, Hubspot, and Marketo Sparks.

Track and Measure the Activities and Behaviors of the Prospects

In order to make your lead generation process as efficient as possible, you should definitely track and measure the activities and behaviors of the prospects. How they behave when they are on your website, which pages they visit,  and whether or not the click on certain links, attend certain webinars can give you a lot of clues on their level of interests and intent.

By implementing a lead scoring system based on demographics data and behaviors, you could qualify the leads appropriately and only send the high quality leads to Sales. I’m sure Sales would appreciate you a lot more!

Continuously Refine and Fine Tune Your lead Nurturing Process

Your first cycle of doing lead nurturing may not yield the results that you want. The important thing to remember is that lead nurturing takes time and necessary refinements and adjustments to make it effective and powerful.

Along the way, you should get inputs and feedback from sales as well as members of the technical team and executive team. It should be a companywide team efforts.

Read More
Business Strategy

Double Your Business Efficiency with a Marketing Automation Solution

Save Time, Grow Fast, and Build Loyal Customers with a Marketing Automation Solution

Increase business productivity with marketing automationManaging a small business is tough. Business owners are inundated with tasks to do every day. With such a busy schedule, who has the time to do marketing and customer service?

You have 2 options.  You could either hire more people or use a marketing automation solution. Hiring more workers can get expensive, so let’s consider the marketing automation solution.

What Can a Market Automation Solution Do?

By using a marketing automation solution, small businesses can save lots of time by automating certain marketing and customer service tasks.  For example, you can automatically send follow-up messages to your prospects and automatically send personalized follow-up messages to customers after they have made a purchase.

Here is a summary of what a marketing automation solution can do for your business:

  • Lead Nurturing – Not all prospects who visit your website or meet you at a tradeshow for the first time are ready to do business with you.  They may be at the early stage of the buying cycle and are still in the process of doing their research. This is especially true if you sell an expensive or complicated product or service. A market automation solution helps you to nurture these leads through a series of drip emails. The email message may contain an offer to attend a webinar, see a demo, or download an educational content. By nurturing the relationship and keeping in touch with your prospects, your prospects would more likely to consider you at the moment they are ready to buy.
  • Qualify and Assign Leads – Most marketing automation software allows you to qualify leads based on their demographic info (size of company, revenue, etc) as well as behavioral activities (attend webinar, visit price page, etc). Leads that meet the “sales ready” criteria can be automatically forwarded to a sales associate. This allow your sales people to focus their valuable time on high quality leads.
  • Post Sales Customer Service – To impress your customers and earn their loyalty, you can set up a post-sale follow up series of messages. Your post follow up sales messages could start with a “thank you” message to thank them for their orders. Next, you could send additional follow up messages to promote other offers.

A marketing automation tool can be quite useful and has the potential to convert more leads into customers without costing you a lot of time.

What are the Marketing Automation options for Small Businesses?

Small businesses looking for a marketing automation solution has many choices, with different price points, features and functionalities. I will list them from basic to the more advanced solutions below:

1. Autoresponder and Email Marketing Solution

The most basic marketing automation solution such as Aweber and Vertical Response includes email signup forms & autoresponder services to help you build your email list and stay in touch with prospects. Here are the main features and benefits of using an email/autoresponder service such as  Aweber or Vertical Response:

  • Forms creation – Create professional looking forms to collect prospects’ contact info on your website or blog.
  • Autoresponder – Deliver a sequence of messages automatically to your prospects. With each message, you build trust and rapport by delivering useful information to your prospects. Once your prospects warm up to you, it becomes easier for you to sell to them. Additionally, with an autoresponder, you can blast out an email to your list of subscribers at any given time to share news, offer a special promotion, or just to stay in touch.
  • List segmentation – Managing and segmenting your subscribers is easy using Aweber.

In addition, Aweber also contains analytics that provide you useful data such as who opened your messages (and who didn’t) and who clicked certain links in your messages.

For most solo entrepreneurs and small businesses, an email marketing/autoresponder solution such as Aweber or Vertical Response works quite well. The price usually runs around $10-20/month. I am using Aweber and I am very happy with their service so far. Aweber makes is easy to create professional looking forms and set up your email automation.

–> Click Here To Sign Up Aweber 30 Days $1 Trial

2. Marketing Automation Solution for Small Businesses

For businesses with revenue in the $1-$5 million range, a popular marketing automation solution to consider is Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft is actually quite powerful. It combines email marketing, a CRM, and ecommerce into an integrated system.  With Infusionsoft, you can nurture leads, generate repeat sales, grow your business, while saving you lots of time.  Additionally, you can do advanced things like trigger an email campaign based on your customer’s actions such as completing a purchase checkout or clicking on a link in an email.

Infusionsoft’s price is around $300/month.

3. Advanced Marketing Automation Solution for Small Businesses

If you are looking for an advanced marketing solution, your options include Hubspot, Marketo Sparks, and Pardot. These solutions allow you to perform much more sophisticated marketing automation.

In addition to email marketing, they include advanced features such as analytics, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and event marketing. These advanced marketing automation solutions cost around $700-$1,000/month and are ideal for B2B businesses with revenue greater than $5 million/year.

Get Your Business Automated Now!

Whether you sell to consumers or to businesses, having a marketing automation solution can help you nurture prospects, build trust, and increase customer satisfaction while saving your lots of time. Check out any of the solutions above today!

Read More
branding Business Strategy

How to Build a Rock Solid Brand for Your Small Business and Turn Your Customers into Loyal Fans

building a brand for your small businessBuilding your brand is perhaps the most important aspect of marketing and growing your small business.

It’s proven time and time again that businesses who invest the resources to build their brands are able to build incredible customer loyalty and reap great rewards. Just look at the big brands such as Coca Cola, Nike, Disney, and Apple. These companies invest a big part of their marketing budget on building their brands and have incredible customer loyalty as a result.

Unfortunately, most small businesses ignore this important business strategy.

The Recipe for Building a Successful Brand

By taking the steps to build your brand, you leave no doubt on customers’ and prospects’ mind what your business and brand represent and the kind of experiences they will get when they do business with you.

Studies after studies have shown that customers make buying decisions based mostly on emotions. People like to do business with people whom they like and trust. If you can stir people’s emotions and delight them with great experiences, they will surely want to do business with you for a long time.

Furthermore, your loyal customers will also become your most passionate brand ambassadors. They will want to spread the good words about your business to all their friends and family members. “Words of mouth” marketing is the best form of marketing!

Are you ready to build a rock solid brand? Follow the steps below:

1. First, determine what is special about your business

What’s your value proposition? How do your products or services improve people’s life or make their life better? What promises does your brand make to your target market? What can you do that is better than the competitors? What do you want your customers to say about you?

Write down a short summary that covers all these points. Your goal is to come up with a brand message and promise that clearly conveys your value proposition and clearly distinguishes you from the competition.

Once your brand’s value proposition, position, and brand promise is clearly defined, make sure all your employees and staff are trained so that everything about your business aligns with your brand promise.

This is very important! In the end, you want your brand to stand apart from the competition and leave a strong impression on the customers as well as prospects when they do business with you.

2. Do you have a logo for your business?

No matter how small your business is, it is still necessary for you to have a professional looking logo that represents your business well. It’s worth it! Nowadays, you can find a great designer on Craigslist to design a great looking logo for you for less than $200.

Your logo could be a combination of a symbol or an image with text or it could be just text based. Be sure to keep the design of your logo simple, memorable, and meaningful. If you could, it is recommended to also have a short and punchy tagline that conveys a memorable message about your brand.

Lastly, use a maximum of 2 colors. Once you have a logo, you can use it for your website, business card, brochure, and other marketing collaterals.

3. Do every parts of your business operations support your value proposition?

Analyze all aspects of your business and ask yourself if every parts of your business support support your value proposition or not. Going one step further, what can you do at every aspect of your business operations to enhance the customer experiences?

This include the layout and decoration of your storefront, how your staff greet and treat your customers as well as visitors, your return policy, the quality of your products and services, etc. Even the little things you do can brighten a customer’s day and convert him/her into your loyal customer.

4. Maintain consistency in your image and the experiences that you provide to your customers

Establishing consistency is very important as it helps to etch into memory what your customers think of your brand.

5. Tell your brand story

People love a good story. As such, you should have a compelling story for your brand. How did you get started in your business? What made you to want to start your business in the first place. How do you plan to change people’s lives with your products or services? Have it ready and when the opportunity arises, you can tell a compelling brand story to your clients, prospects, or partners.

Stay Committed to Building Your Brand!

If you commit yourself to building a strong brand for your business and be consistent on delivering remarkable experiences, your customers will always think of you first everytime they have a need for your products or services. Isn’t that powerful? Remember that the promises you make for your brand should match the experiences that customers will have when they do business with you.

I hope the above tips will inspire you to take the necessary actions to build a strong brand for your business starting today. In future posts, I will guide you on to use free online promotional methods to build awareness for your brand. Stay tuned!

Read More
Business Strategy Internet Marketing

Unlock This One Key to Explode Your Business Growth and Success!

keys to business successWhat do companies like Apple, Nordstrom, Zappos, and Ritz Carlton have in common other than being very successful?

Do you know what makes them successful and the reasons why they are the most admirable companies?

It could be argued that there are lots of things that go into making a successful company. But from my observation, the key to business success that are embodied by these great companies is their abilities to deliver amazing experiences to their clients.

The amazing experiences could come from one or a combination of factors, including great products and incredible customer services. No matter how you do it, if you can delight your customers with amazing experiences, you will undoubtedly have them as loyal customers for life!

Furthermore, these loyal customers can help your business grow to unimaginable level through their referrals. It is known that a happy customer will most likely tell their friends and family members about his/her great experience.

I have seen many businesses that exist for the sole purpose of just making money. Most often than not, these businesses either go out of business or struggle to survive.

I know of many restaurants that fall into the above category. The owner thinks that he/she could just open a restaurant and expect customers to be coming in every night. First of all, most restaurants that I’ve been to serve lousy food. I’ve had food that are worst than frozen dinner I bought at the super market. Secondly, the service is just horrible! The waiters and waitresses are rude and seldomly smile.

It’s no surprise that these restaurants go out of business within a few years.

How to Deliver Amazing Experiences and Have them coming back for More

If you want your business to have long term success, you must put your customers first. Your goal and focus should be on delivering amazing experiences to your customers. That’s the key to business success!

Nowadays, competition is quite fierce for every type of businesses. To be successful, you have to do things that separate yourself from the rest.

One of the best ways to make your business standout is to deliver amazing experiences to your customers. All it takes is some efforts and some creativities from you.

Here are the step to delivering amazing customer experiences:

  1. Examine everything your company does that affect the customers’ experience (products, customer service, return policy, etc).
  2. Could your products be made any better? If you are serving food or desserts, could use better and fresher ingredients? Did it pass your taste test?
  3. Is your staff properly trained on customer service? Do they smile and speak to customers in a friendly and engaging tone?
  4. What can you add with minimal costs that can enhance the customer experience? If you have a salon, how about buying a coffee machine and giving customers free coffee or tea while they’re waiting? Or how providing Nintendo Wii games?

If you can just do the little things and focus on enhancing the customers’ experience, I guarantee you that your business will not only grow, but it will thrive and prosper!

Please Share Your Experience

What have you done in your business lately that delighted or amazed your customers? Please share by commenting below! Don’t be shy!

Read More